Thailand is well positioned to be the medical hub of Asia. The country offers state-of-the-art facilities and technologies, internationally certified medical services, excellent medical expertise, highly qualified medical professionals, and a wide range of high-standard hospitals. Thailand also has a significant number of internationally accredited medical facilities.
In order to develop Thailand into an "International Health Center for Excellence", the Ministry of Public Health, the national focal point for implementation of the Medical Hub Policy, is executing its second strategic five-year plan (2012-2016). The plan encompasses four major areas: medical services, integrative wellness centers, development of Thai herbs, and traditional and alternative Thai medicines.
Thailand is the world's largest medical tourism market, with the number of international patients continuing to rise. In 2012, Thailand welcomed more than 2.5 million international patients, a 14% increase from 2011. According to Thailand's Ministry of Public Health and the Kasikorn Research Center, Thailand's 2012 revenue from medical tourism was between US$ 4.0 billion and US$4.7 billion, up from US$3.2 billion in 2011.
Thailand also attracts thousands of international patients with its traditional and alternative medicines. Alternative medicine uses herbal medicines, biofeedback, and acupuncture in lieu of drugs. A broad range of practices are used including homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. The Thailand Ministry of Public Health has formally supported the sector in an effort to promote Thai traditional and alternative medicines in hospitals nationwide.
The initiatives that Thailand has undertaken to strengthen its position as the medical hub of Asia have created opportunities for continued growth in related fields, including the medical services, medical device, and pharmaceutical sectors. As a result, the country has become an excellent location for investment.
Thailand offers world-class medical facilities. Thai hospitals are among the first in Asia to be Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited. Over 1,000 public and 300 private hospitals across the country operate in compliance with international standards and employ internationally trained physicians. With warm hospitality, patients feel right at home. Many hospitals have specialized English speaking staff and several provide translators in a wide variety of foreign languages, including Arabic, Japanese and Chinese, to ensure that there are no communication barriers between doctor and patient. Additionally, Thailand provides excellent healthcare services at highly competitive prices.
International patients visit Thailand for a variety of treatments including general examinations, dentistry, cancer treatments, hip replacements, kidney transplants, cardiology testing, heart surgeries, laser eye surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, weight loss surgeries, and sex change operations. The price of surgery services in Thailand is far lower than the price of similar procedures in the USA or Europe. Thailand also narrowly edges out Singapore in surgery price comparisons, contributing to the country's domination of the global medical tourism market.
The Thai government's continued efforts to develop the country into an Asian medical hub have driven up demand for medical services and devices. Although a wide range of medical devices are manufactured domestically, Thailand still relies heavily on imported medical devices, especially sophisticated and higher-end devices from countries such as United States, Japan, and Singapore. This backdrop creates an opportunity for new investment in high-end medical device manufacturing in Thailand.
Actually, the market for medical devices has strongly grown. In 2012, the market for medical devices in Thailand was US$2 billion, a 24% increase from the previous year. The market is predicted to reach US$2.5 billion and US$3 billion in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Major international medical device manufacturers or distributors in Thailand include: 3M, Bausch & Lomb, Baxter Healthcare, Boston Scientific, Carl Zeiss, Diethelm, GE Medical Systems, Guidant, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Philips Electronics (Medical Systems), Roche Diagnostics, Siemens (Medical Solutions) Surgical Instruments and Tyco Healthcare.
Another key driver of the medical industry, the Thai pharmaceutical market, valued at US$4 billion in 2012, is the largest in Southeast Asia. By 2020, this value is expected to increase to US$9 billion.
As Thailand has developed into the medical hub of Asia, its pharmaceutical market has also experienced significant growth. Thailand's cost-effective and high-quality manufacturing base has been a real magnet in attracting foreign pharmaceutical companies. In recent years, the increasing numbers of medical tourists, an aging population, and a higher level of health awareness amongst Thais have boosted the country's pharmaceutical image. Thailand also currently produces 25 active pharmaceutical ingredients, including sodium chloride, camphor, and menthol. Most active ingredients are imported from manufacturers overseas, leaving sizable room for new pharmaceutical investors.